Government’s Role in Creating Innovative Infrastructure and thus Jobs

by Bill Golden and

What role should the federal government play in creating the conditions for jobs creation?

Many conservatives and libertarians would tell you the role should be none, let the market sort things out. As someone that believes government’s role in our lives should be minimal, there is a proper role for government: infrastructure innovation. ‘Infrastructure’ serves the public at both the individual and business level.

However, merely throwing money into public infrastructure programs is not a good enough standard. Infrastructure innovation must have a high probability of success and should be as valuable to public on the day after tomorrow as it is on the day it becomes available for use. The standard should be that government is innovating and creating a public good that the public will use in life, work and play.

One such project is the creation of electric refueling stations for electric cars. Currently there are only 465 public electric refueling stations in the entire USA. Stimulus funds are being spent to create 15,000 such refueling points in 13 cities in fall 2010. This is known as the ‘EV Project’ and deployment coincides with commercial sales of Nissan’s Leaf and GM’s Volt electric cars.

The cost to the taxpayer: $100 million.

Is this a worthy cost, spending approximately $6653 per electric refueling point? The short answer is that we must hold our breath and see. We must see if Nissan and GM really deliver their cars. We must hope that those cars work as advertised.

Certainly success in the EV Project endeavor will create many jobs and new career paths.

But there are questions:

? Isn’t this also corporate welfare? Spending $100 million so that Nissan and GM have the infrastructure so that people will buy their cars?

? Are all refueling points truly public?

? Are there some greater public infrastructure investments that are more practical, such as wind farms in these 13 cities?

? Are the companies receiving these funds, almost all of which stand to profit handsomely if the projects work out, going to plow a percentage of their success back into growing the infrastructure? Or will they distribute the profits and come back to government with hands out for another round of ‘let’s do good’ public funding?

Learn more about the EV Project.


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